Arizona, center of northern hemisphere uncertainty; weird clouds today?

Here’s a nice little example of how the weather computing models start to go awry fast when a little flummoxed when little DELIBERATE errors are input into them as they start their northern hemisphere data crunch (below, from the global data ingested at 5 PM AST yesterday).  Us folks here in Arizona and those in the Southwest US comprise one of two “centers” of the greatest uncertainty in all of the Northern Hemisphere, as shown below in the red and blue lines (selected height contours at 500 mb).

Model outputs and what they are predicting will go to HELL faster due to our “zone of uncertainty”. Chaos in action. Wiggle something here, and it falls apart over there and all over.  This example is the contour forecasts for 5 PM tomorrow.

Valid for 5 PM AST Monday, February 4th.
Valid for 5 PM AST Monday, February 4th.

Does this epicenter of uncertainty hereabouts mean we have a chance to get some real rain in the next 36 h?

No,  but its great that you know about this uncertaity and how it plays out in the NOAA  “ensembles of spaghetti”; useless-in-some-ways-knowledge, absorbed just for the sake of knowledge.

The uncertainty illustrated above is associated with a upper level wiggle in the winds and exactly how that will play out as that wiggle moves toward us from the NW today.   Its a little baby trough in the upper air flow that the model is uncertain about but it is too weak to have much affect on the big cloud mass that will be drifting over us today, that cloud mass originally from a location about halfway between the Galapagos and Hawaiian Islands.  These are real tropical clouds over us today, and they’ll be piled in layers (Altostratus, Altocumulus, Cirrus, Cirrostratus) over us to more than 350,000 feet!

Below, you can see the moist air piled to 350,000 feet as depicted here in the U of AZ model run from 11 PM AST last evening.  But hardly a drop falls on us from all these clouds. (A deliberate numerical error of some magnitude has been put in here to see if you’re paying attention.)

Range of amounts here in Catalina:  ZERO on the bottom to 0.10 inches, tops.

Below is an example (full set here) of what the Beowulf Cluster from the U of AZ sees in the moisture overhead at 3 PM local time (in other words, during the 84th hour of the Superbowl pre-game show).   I realize that many of you will not be able to go outside and look at the sky at any time today due to this historical sports emergency, and so I will tell you something now about what you likely would have seen had you gone outside, perhaps even missing an equally historic commercial break of some kind:

Forecast sounding for 3 PM AST today, an hour before Superbowl kick-off.
Forecast sounding for 3 PM AST today, an hour before Superbowl kick-off.

What does this mean?

Weird clouds, most likely.   Scoop clouds, concave (downward) looking cloud bottoms.  Some areas of the sky might look like ocean waves upside down, “undulatus” clouds (we had a short-lived Ac undulatus yesterday to the NW of Catalina).  Clouds with waves on the bottom.  The bases of our tropical clouds are likely going to be in a “stable layer”, one where the temperature remains the same as you go up.  It would be located just above the top of Ms. Mt. Lemon.  Along with that stable layer, and is always a part of them, is wind shear; the wind turning in direction and speed as you go upward from just below this stable layer to above it.

Stable layers and wind shear produce waves, not ones always seen since the air is often too dry for clouds, but in this case, they should be visible.  Could make for some interesting cloud shots this afternoon and evening. Here’s a risky example of what I think is likely, though with too much virga falling from above, they won’t happen, hence, the risk in a cloud detailed forecast:

An educated guess about how this afternoon's cloud bases will look.  There's likely to be much more cloud cover, however, than is shown here.
An educated guess about how this afternoon’s cloud bases will look. There’s likely to be much more cloud cover, however, than is shown here.

Yesterday’s clouds

Lots of contrails overhead yesterday, an unusual number.  Really, we are SO LUCKY not to have many days like this, kind of a sky pollution, though at present, an unavoidable one.   Just be glad we don’t live right under a main, well-traveled airway (though, with predictions of a doubling of air traffic by 2020, we are likely doomed to more days like yesterday when Cirriform clouds are present).

4:51 PM. Altocumulus lenticularis undulatus (has waves in it).
5:04 PM. Mock sun, sun dog, or, technically a parhelia caused by hexagonal ice crystals fluttering downward face down. You don’t want to fall that way, but they do.


2:16 PM.  Signs of the modern world in the sky.
2:16 PM. Signs of the modern world in the sky.